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Thursday, February 25, 2010
Spring Training Blog: Feb. 25


WEBB THROWS 45 PITCHES IN CAMP (4:41 p.m. ET)
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb feels good after his latest throwing session.

The former Cy Young winner is coming back from surgery on his right shoulder last August. He threw 45 pitches on Thursday and calls it another step forward in his recovery.

Webb expects to be ready to start the Diamondbacks' third game of the regular season. Dan Haren will pitch the opener, followed by Edwin Jackson.

-- The Associated Press

BRANYAN GOES TO WORK FOR INDIANS (4:53 p.m. ET)
Russell Branyan, his one-year, $2 million contract freshly signed, reported Thursday to the Indians' spring training camp in Arizona and prepared for his second go-around with Cleveland.

"There are a lot of good, positive things in coming back," said Branyan, who will get the majority of playing time at first base. "This is where I started. To get this opportunity, it was hard to turn down. It means a lot to me."

Branyan came through Cleveland's minor league system in the late 1990s. It was thought he would join the list of sluggers the Indians produced during the decade, which included Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. Standing 6-foot-3, Branyan hit 30 or more homers in three minor league seasons before being traded to Cincinnati in 2002.

Eight years and eight organizations later, Branyan believes he's learned from his experiences.

"I understand people a lot better," he said. "I don't let small things bother me as much anymore."

The Indians will hold their first full-squad workout Friday under new manager Manny Acta.

-- ESPN.com news services

BOSOX UNVEIL SPRING GREEN MONSTER PLANS (4:01 p.m. ET)
The future spring training home of the Boston Red Sox will have a replica Green Monster and duplicate the dimensions of Fenway Park.

The Red Sox, Lee County and Populous released preliminary renderings Thursday of the 11,000-capacity, $75 million ballpark, which is scheduled to open in 2012 about 10 miles from the current stadium. Five practice fields will be outside the main stadium, combining training camp for the Red Sox into one facility from the current two.

The Green Monster will have a manual scoreboard and seats atop the wall, which will be 310 feet from home plate down the line. The right-field fence will be 302 feet from the plate, and the bullpens will be beyond the fence in right-center, just as they are at Fenway.

"I like the Fenway similarity," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "The charm of Fenway Park. The Florida look and feel. Not a duplicate of Fenway Park with heavy red brick and New England style. It's meant to be different and lighter and airier and breezier and more Florida-like."

-- The Associated Press

STRASBURG THROWS LONGEST SESSION YET (3:52 p.m. ET)
Nationals rookie right-hander Stephen Strasburg threw his longest bullpen session of spring training on Thursday, a 12-minute effort in 47-degree temperatures with winds in excess of 20 mph.

Pitching coach Steve McCatty was impressed with how the rookie fared in challenging conditions, noting that the winds made it difficult for Strasburg to throw his breaking ball.

Strasburg, the Nationals' No. 1 pick in last year's amateur draft, is already generating a buzz in spring training. On Sunday, about 150 fans, twice the normal number for Washington's first workout, watched Nationals pitchers and catchers practice -- and most were watching the hard-throwing right-hander from San Diego State.

-- ESPN.com news services

FEET, DON'T FAIL ME NOW (3:42 p.m. ET)
Nyjer Morgan is going feetfirst in trying to avoid headfirst slides, as part of the Nationals' new strategy for keeping their speedy center fielder in the lineup and off the disabled list.

Morgan fractured his left hand sliding into third base in Chicago in August, short-circuiting a promising start with a new team. After being traded from Pittsburgh to Washington on June 30, Morgan hit .351, stole 24 bases in 31 tries and played sparkling defense before missing the final five weeks of the season while on the DL.

Part of Morgan's penchant for the headfirst approach has been vanity. "I just like to get dirty," he laughed. "When you're all dirty, you look like you've been playing hard, and I play hard."

Morgan isn't the only Nationals player perfecting the new move. Manager Jim Riggleman wants players throughout the organization to employ the feet-first approach because it cuts down on hand, finger and wrist injuries.

"There's a transition there. It takes a little time, but that's why we got to keep practicing it," Riggleman said. "Our message to the guys -- not just Nyjer, but all of them -- is any of them who have always slid headfirst, we would like to get you going feetfirst."

-- The Associated Press

SANCHEZ WORKING HIS WAY BACK (2:21 p.m. ET)
Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez, still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, hopes to begin taking ground balls within a week. If that goes well, he'll graduate to swinging a bat.

Sanchez is working out seven days a week with Tony Reale, the Giants' physical therapist. He's already throwing -- about 35 tosses from a distance of 75 feet -- but the Giants are still in one-step-at-a-time mode with him.

There's no timetable on Sanchez's return to the lineup, but it's a virtual certainty that he'll miss the start of the season. Juan Uribe can play second base in Sanchez's absence, and Eugenio Velez, Emmanuel Burriss and Kevin Frandsen will all get a look at the position in spring training.

The bigger issue for manager Bruce Bochy is reconfiguring his lineup without Sanchez in the second spot. Shortstop Edgar Renteria could hit second to begin the season, then drop down to seventh or eighth once Sanchez returns. But Renteria had a .290 on-base percentage in the No. 2 hole last year, so he's not a good fit for the top of the order.

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com

FELDMAN TAKES THE LEAD IN RANGERS' ROTATION (12:53 p.m. ET)
In less than a year, Scott Feldman has progressed from afterthought to anchor of the Texas Rangers' starting rotation.

Winning 17 games in five months last season -- and entering the closing weeks with a chance to reach the coveted 20-victory mark -- will do that for a pitcher.

"I thought it would have been cool if I could have gotten 20," Feldman said. "Just to get 17 was a pretty cool thing. We had a good team."

Feldman was a large part of that success, posting a 17-8 record and 4.08 ERA in 31 starts. Despite not joining the rotation until late April, the right-hander was second on the club with 189 2/3 innings pitched.

Though he has just 56 career starts under his belt, the 27-year-old has become an elder statesman in a rotation that this year adds oft-injured veteran Rich Harden. It's a role that Feldman didn't necessarily expect but has embraced since the departure of Kevin Millwood.

"It's about your work ethic around here," manager Ron Washington said of Feldman on Thursday. "He's a great guy to model. You can't put leadership on people. Your teammates draw it out of you. And he's got the work ethic."

-- The Associated Press

BRAVES EXCITED ABOUT FULL YEAR OF HANSON (12:38 p.m. ET)
The Braves are very encouraged about their starting pitching for several reasons.

First, Tim Hudson says "I haven't felt this good in six years." The discomfort in Jair Jurrjens' right shoulder has diminished "from a 7 to a 0.5," says manager Bobby Cox.

And, the Braves will have Tommy Hanson for the entire season.

When another top Braves starter, Derek Lowe, was asked what impressed him most about Hanson, he said, "Where do you want me to start?"

That's how good Hanson is. "Every pitcher in the big leagues has good stuff, the difference is the guy who has it mentally, and he does," said Hudson. "You could see it last spring. When he got to the big leagues last year, he thought he was better than the hitters."

"His stuff is sensational," Lowe said of Hanson. When asked about the trade of ace Javier Vazquez, Lowe acknowledged that the Braves had lost a terrific pitcher, but he said, "We're going to get 15 more starts from Tommy Hanson. That's a pretty good start."

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

HEYWARD TURNING HEADS AT BRAVES CAMP (12:33 p.m. ET)
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward has had some prodigious batting practices so far this spring.

"It sounds like a 30-aught six going off when he hits the ball," said Braves pitcher Tim Hudson. "I was walking through the outfield, I heard that sound, turned and said, 'What in the heck was that?' "

Pitcher Derek Lowe agreed about the sound, saying, "His BP is frightening."

Heyward said Thursday that he weighed in, clothed, at 250 pounds. He said in spikes, he stands 6-foot-6.

"He is huge," said Braves catcher David Ross. "His hands are huge. Hank Aaron was here the other day and talked about how big Jason's hands are. And Hank has big hands."

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine